How A Lunch With Hermits Taught Me To Live With Zest
They truly know how to share a meal through a spirit of care and joy.
Whenever I seek to reminisce within solitude — I go back to a distant memory when I was but a child. An energetic, lively and cheeky kid who’d run around the Polytechnique Institute, that my mother ran for women. I was always surrounded by women, young and old who definitely taught me the value of love and care.
I was a polite kid, and would always say hello to everyone in the streets. People in the neighbourhood had grown accustomed to me, although they knew that I was my mum’s son. But in time, I was known as the kid who never rests to bask in zest.
It was perhaps a sunny day, much like any other — I remember it like it was yesterday. The warmth, of how the sun felt on my skin. Even colours of nature felt surreal back then. Like they were something else — I asked my mum that could I go and play outside. She obliged, with an affirmation and allowed me to go outside.
I along with a childhood friend of mine would navigate the streets of the city we’d lived in. Perhaps we knew of all the shortcuts, of all the people young and old that passed us by. We would do informal greetings to vendors in the streets, and the people while playing a game of tag. Boy those were some fantastic times.
Around the street, was an old shrine where hermits would come to pray. I had seen many people before who in seclusion would sit near the old banyan tree for days. Those old people fascinated me, the most. One day perhaps, I got intrigued to go have a chat with them. And So I approached cautiously, and asked the old man a question — “Why do you sit alone for days on end, in the shrine or under the old banyan tree?” He smiled at me with the most peaceful gaze and replied, “Dear boy, I do it to find refuge from the world. It is a place where I can seek peace.”
After listening to this, I said, “Wow, with a surprised look with eyes full of hope & joy to spare.” I introduced myself to the old man, with a handshake. In return, the old man took my right hand and paid it respect by holding it with his both hands in the form of prayer. He then caressed my forehead, and told me “You’re a kind child.”
It felt like I was sitting next to someone, who reminded me of my own grandfather in many ways. His gentle touch and kind presence made me feel at peace. I then had a long discussion where I asked him questions to my heart's content. He would tell me an answer every day when I would visit him later on.
I came home that day and told my mother about the old man. My mother was surprised that I had made a friend. So she told me, to help her prepare with her some food for the old hermit. The next day, I came to meet the old man and wanted to give him a gift. So I told him that my mother sends her regards and she wanted you to enjoy this meal.
He asked me, whether I would like to join him and I said, “yes!” He then opened up the Tiffen box and saw many things. He asked me to choose which one should we try eating first — I said let’s start with the millets as they were my favourite.
He took a piece of bread and evenly broke it in two giving each of us a piece. We then took a small bite, the old man as he took the bite — he closed his eyes and said a prayer. He was truly happy to have tasted the dish my mother had prepared for him. His face sparkled like mine and then we both dug in the small feast sharing our meal together.
I would look at the old man and he would smile at me. It truly made me happy that I was able to share such an exquisite meal with such a magnetic personality. As I was about to finish — he had perhaps felt that I was fasting the entire day because the time I spent with him I never had a bite. He told me, to have the remaining bread to myself as he felt that I need to eat. I told him, that I was full — he could see through my lie and then told me something truly unforgettable. He said,
“Food shared is food never wasted. Thus eat to your fill, and eat well. You deserve it, don’t starve yourself. It is better to share a piece of bread than to eat it with one’s self.”
I asked him “but what about you?” He replied, “it’s all right, my son. Do not worry.” I took a piece of the remaining bread and then broke it into an even slice for both of us. I put the remaining millets and wrapped that piece of bread around it and gave it to the hermit.
I said, to the kind man “now we both can share and enjoy it together.” The old man looked at me and laughed. He was truly happy to see that I had picked up the philosophy of the hermits. He hugged me and accepted that share with gusto. I then said my goodbyes to the hermit and ran back home with zest.
The next day, I came back to find the hermit but he was not there. I waited and asked around the other hermits who were with him but they didn’t know where he had gone. I stayed there, along the old banyan tree that day waiting for the old man to come back. A few weeks had passed, and there was no sign of the hermit.
One fine day, I saw the hermit sitting near the old shrine with his stuff wrapped around a box of clothes. He looked at me and waved hello. As soon as I saw the hermit — I ran towards him. He told me, that he had to make preparations for a pilgrimage he is intending to set on. Thus he came back one last time, to say his formal goodbyes.
I told him, “you don’t have to go.” He looked at me, and said, “you are my friend, one that I never asked for but one that I was blessed with.” He thanked me for my hospitality and told me that I was kind to him when no one else would come near him. As I made the approach to connect. He told me he had missed the interactions of the world, perhaps I was able to fill the void that is now filled with hope. A hope that he aims to explore with questions on his next journey.
Even though I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the old man. With tears in my eyes, I told him “but why?” My mother thanked him for his kindness towards my sake. And then he said, “it’s time for me to embark!” He caressed my forehead, and said to me one last time — never ever try to lose your sense of zest and joy. With that, the old man smiled and left.
My mother still holding me whilst the old man walked away in the sunlight. I still had tears, in my eyes crying as I was taken back home. After a while, I stopped crying. In the end, I realized the old man left as he once came into my life. Like a kind traveller perhaps, who shared his love and joy with a lively boy.
I would always pay my respects to the spot where he and I once sat. Where we enjoyed our discussions, our meals and perhaps our time. Whenever I would come outside, I would look towards the old shrine and smile. Reminiscing on the time, that I once spent with the kind hermit who I inspired.
He who taught me one of the most important lessons of life — love and zest are two gems when shown can even make an old man as cheerful as a child.
Peace, Thank you so much for reading. Stay Blessed and Stay Safe!